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Insight Into Chinese Foreign Policy

China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, gave a lengthy interview to the international press on the sidelines of the Chinese legislature’s annual meeting. Here are the highlights as Via Meadia‘s sees it:

  • China continues to have a low-key response to Washington’s “pivot to Asia.” There have been no threats from Beijing, and to our knowledge no important official has condemned Washington’s new policy or threatened American interests in the Pacific. Instead, as Jiechi says, “China and the U.S. have more converging interests in the Asia-Pacific region than anywhere else in the world. . . . We hope to see and welcome a constructive role by the U.S. in this region, and at the same time we hope that the U.S. side will respect China’s interests and concerns.”
  • This low key response is bolstered by an outlook focused on the long term. There have been no reactionary, knee-jerk confrontations emanating from China. As Jiechi says, “The two sides should view bilateral ties from a long-term strategic perspective.”
  • Jiechi did, however, emphasize Beijing’s red lines: Tibet and Taiwan. Washington must “properly handle Taiwan- and Tibet-related issues that concern China’s core interests.”
  • In the short term, there are disagreements over Syria and Iran. Despite this, there are no efforts on the part of Chinese officials to sharpen or polemicize these issues. Washington and Beijing are in “close communication” over Middle East affairs, Jeichi said.

This is all very much in line with the Deng Xiaoping school of thought: China should exercise strategic patience and rise peacefully, safeguarding its vital interests but provoking no contests. Other Chinese leaders and factions disagree with Jiechi, including some in People’s Liberation Army. But this is a calm approach to new U.S. activism. Washington should respond with the kind of strategic dialog he seeks.

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  • Anthony

    WRM, are you suggesting that Washington continue to maintain policy of engagement but modify for real structural imperatives of international system vis-a-vis Northeast Asia without antagonistic behavior.

  • Luke Lea

    Keep in mind that an industrial revolution is one of the most traumatic experiences known to mankind. Tens or in this case hundreds of millions of people get bent out of shape, leading to all kinds of irrational social movements, an aggressive nationalism being the one we know best. When things go wrong, as they inevitably will, the complexion of a society can suddenly change.

  • Peter Thomas

    Your final paragraph is more revealing – others may disagree…That is precisely the struggle taking place right now within the elites + the new US pivot provides pressure for a more hardline response. More indicative than mere rhetoric was VP Xi’s declining to open up better lines of communication between the US and Chinese military on his trip to the US.

    Also, as an aside, why the use of “Jiechi” – that’s his chosen name. Yang is the family name. Seems a little friendly to be referring to him that way.

  • Luke Lea

    [to the editors: I recently came across the The Epoch Times, which claims to be an independent voice and is full of stories highly critical of what is going on inside the China.

    Not sure how to assess its credibility but in Wikipedia Orville Schell, dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, said in 2005 that “It’s hard to vouch for their quality because it’s difficult to corroborate, but it’s not something to be dismissed as pure propaganda.” Would be nice to get Mead’s opinion.]

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